Ahead of several high-profile electric vehicle launches planned for Jeep, Ram, and Dodge this year and next, parent company Stellantis on Tuesday announced that it’s moving the charging experience and energy management for its EVs under a single business—one that will include a sophisticated route-planning app and toolkit.
Free2Move Charge will be managed as part of the new Stellantis Charging & Energy business unit, and will cover charging hardware, software, and related services. That includes support for a cohesive lineup of home-charging hardware from Stellantis, and Free2Move Charge will include support for bidirectional charging in the near future, with home hardware to take advantage of it—although solar isn’t part of the plan yet.
The unit will include Home, Business, and Go pillars, with the latter referring to “seamless access to the largest possible curated network of public charging points through partners in North America, Europe, and other regions to be announced soon.”
Dealership charging hub
For the customer, Go will bring the same harmonized interface for finding charging across platforms, in a smartphone and tablet app, via a web page, on charge-hub kiosks at the dealer, or in the vehicle. Over the next year, a lot of that functionality will be added to separate brand apps, too, and there will still be a separate Charge app with all the functionality.
Stellantis says that it will integrate the application into its new vehicles starting in 2024, including into the STLA SmartCockpit platform that will provide intelligent route information and more.
Aggregating public charge points, not creating them
The Charge app will act as an aggregating hub for finding charging, paying for it, and navigating to it. Owners will be able to sort by varied priorities, including cost. Plug and Charge support, reservations, and a loyalty program are on the way, and the app will have the smarts to understand when you’re on a road trip in a different EV.
While some automakers have acquired route-planning apps focused around minimizing charging anxiety on the road—Rivian most recently—Stellantis said that it is effectively going it alone, and it’s running its own application programming interface behind the app and route planner as a business.
“This is not going to be a disconnected experience,” said Ricardo Stamatti, the senior vice president of Stellantis’ Charging & Energy business unit. Simply put, the app will always know the vehicle’s state of charge and manage the best options for available charging along the way.
The company hopes the network will include nearly 600,000 aggregated charge connectors by the end of 2024.
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Ford announced in May that it planned to adopt Tesla’s NACS charge port for future EVs, and GM followed earlier this month with similar plans to gain Supercharger access in 2024. Reading between the lines, Stellantis' 600,000 figure might include access to chargers with Tesla’s NACS interface, as well as CCS and familiar J1772 Level 2 AC charging. But in a briefing ahead of its Tuesday announcement, Stellantis said that it’s continuing to evaluate NACS and will have more information related to that to share soon.
Stellantis also sidestepped answering whether its new approach signals a future commitment to installing public fast chargers or sponsoring EV charging infrastructure on a greater scale. Earlier this year at CES, Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares remarked that the company isn’t an infrastructure provider. At that time, the company had no plans to build a fast-charging network in the U.S., although it did intend to sell chargers.
Ram, Jeep, Dodge EVs on the way soon
The only fully electric vehicle that Stellantis plans to offer in North America this calendar year is the Maserati GranTurismo Folgore. But next year it plans to start rolling out the first of a new generation of EVs to North America, including a Ram electric pickup and Dodge electric muscle car, and, later, the Wrangler-inspired Jeep Recon EV. Fiat is also bringing back the 500e EV.
But Stellantis has a lot of plug-in hybrids to support at the moment. It’s had the strongest-selling PHEV on the market—the Wrangler 4xe—for a couple of years, and also offers the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid and Jeep Cherokee 4xe plug-ins.
Up until now, home chargers for the 4xe products were essentially treated as Mopar accessories, but under Free2Move Charge they will be streamlined as packages offered at the point of sale.
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Not every charger included, and reliability is why
Stellantis called Free2Move Charge “a 360-degree ecosystem that will seamlessly deliver charging and energy management to address all EV customer needs, anywhere and in any way.”
The overarching, cloud-based approach combined with an aggregation-focused strategy closely parallels the strategies announced in recent years by GM with its Ultium Charge 360 approach and by Ford with its FordPass charging app.
However, Stellantis is the first OEM to make a sweeping announcement about a charging access and aggregation plan since the federal government announced last month it was aiming to tackle EV charger reliability in the U.S. infrastructure buildout by forming a consortium for testing and tracking new fields of data from charging operators.
Ford has already taken a proactive approach, by sending “charge angels” out to identify faulty infrastructure and follow up with responsible parties.
Stamatti said that Stellantis isn’t going to include every potential charger in this aggregation. He pointed out to Green Car Reports how some charge point operators (CPOs) have less than 70% uptime, and suggested it’s going to use what data is out there to pick and choose.
“It’s almost like you’re aggregating frustration for users,” without some curation, Stamatti explained. “And make no mistake when they get mad they don’t get mad at the CPO, they get mad at the OEMs, like: 'Why can’t my car charge with this charger? What is going on?'”